Sunday May 7, 2023
Featuring music for duets and trios with clarinet, viola, violin and piano
2 + 3
Sunday, May 7, 2023 – 3 pm
VALLEY MUSIC SERIES
Yevgenia Strenger, violin
Sander Strenger, violin and viola
Dan Berlinghoff, piano
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
“KEGELSTATT” TRIO, KV. 498
for Violin, Viola and Piano
SONATA NO. 2 IN A MAJOR, OP. 100
for Violin and Piano
Yevgenia Strenger, violin
SONATA NO. 3 FOR VIOLIN AND PIANO
Sander Strenger, violin
EIGHT PIECES FOR TRIO, OP. 83
Andante con moto
Allegro con moto
Andante, Romanian Melodie
Allegro vivace, ma non troppo
Yevgenia Strenger, violin
Sander Strenger, viola
Dan Berlinghoff, piano
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
ABOUT THE PROGRAMME
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Born: January 27, 1756, Salzburg
Died: December 5, 1791, Vienna
Because of his extraordinary legacy of concertos for piano, most of us might assume that Mozart participated in performances of this unusually scored work by playing the piano, but the viola part was the one the composer wrote for himself (completed in August of 1786, the work was published in 1788). Anton Stadler, the master clarinetist for whom Mozart would also compose his Clarinet Quintet, K. 581 (in 1789), and, in 1791, the Clarinet Concerto, K. 622, joined the composer and Mozart’s piano student, Franziska Jacquin.
The lyrical, liquid quality of the comparatively new wind instrument had charmed Mozart sufficiently that many of the works from that period now included clarinet parts. The viola was favored by the composer in many works, including the series of string quintets in which a second viola part augmented the standard string quartet.
There is an unconfirmed legend that Mozart composed this trio while visiting what we would term a bowling alley, but that dubious honor may be more properly ascribed to a set of duos for basset horns, K. 487. It must be admitted, however, that the nickname has made the trio stand out from its fellows.
There are other distinctive aspects to the music, including its leisurely opening tempo and absence of a sonata form repeat in the first movement. The following minuet is folksy and not so elegant as many such movements by Mozart. The final movement has a returning theme, but there are more variations than usual between the recurrences of the rondo, so it is labeled in the plural, Rondeaux.
Born: May 7, 1833, Hamburg, Germany
Died: April 3, 1897, Vienna, Austria
Brahms composed the A major Violin Sonata during the summer of 1886 in idyllic Hofstetten, Switzerland. That summer he eagerly anticipated the visit of Hermine Spies, the young contralto for whom he wrote many of his late songs. He noted that the Sonata’s second theme quotes one of the songs he wrote with her in mind, “Wie Melodien zieht es mir” (As if melodies were moving), op. 105, no. 1. Commentators have also linked “Komm bald” (Come soon), op. 97, no. 6, with this movement and found references in the finale to two other Opus 105 songs, “Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer” (My slumber grows more and more peaceful)—which climaxes with the words, “Komm’, O komme bald”—and “Auf dem Kirchhofe” (In the churchyard). Brahms’s friend Elisabet von Herzogenberg was moved to characterize the entire A major Sonata as “a caress.”
As was his custom, Brahms himself participated in the premiere of the Sonata on December 2, 1886, with violinist Joseph Hellmesberger, leader of the Hellmesberger Quartet and enthusiastic supporter of the composer. The performance occurred a little over a week after Brahms had accompanied Hermine in her Viennese debut recital.
The first movement breathes the kind of lyricism associated with Brahms’s songs whether or not one hears the specific allusions. It is the second theme in this sonata form that recalls his lovely “Wie Melodien,” borrowing the first phrase only, which Brahms varies rhythmically and gives a new continuation. The tune reappears in the recapitulation and furnishes the violin’s last utterance to close the coda.
The second movement combines a slow movement and scherzo in alternating sections, in a manner similar to the middle movement of the F major Quintet. Each returning section brings a subtle variation of its former appearance.
Brahms marked the finale “Allegretto grazioso quasi Andante” in order to achieve a non-hurried, graceful atmosphere. The climactic phrase “Come, o come soon” (from “Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer”) can be detected in the rondo theme. The first contrasting episode introduces a haze of arpeggiated chords rather than a “tune” before the rondo refrain returns, but the second episode sounds more traditionally songful. A variation of the first theme returns in the coda, extended by warm double stops in the home key.
© Jane Vial Jaffe
Born: January 29, 1862, Bradford, England
Died: June 10, 1934, Grez-sur-Loing, France
‘The success has been ever increasing & was quite enormous when the Violin Concerto was given’; Delius wrote enthusiastically to his friend in 1919, after the premiere of this work given by its dedicatee, Albert Sammons, with the young Adrian Boult. The Concerto was originally written in 1916, but the first performance was delayed due to the war. Having just completed the Double Concerto for Violin and Cello, Delius’s sound world was still expanding in his string writing. Jelka, Delius’s wife, noted, ‘Fred’s work is going so well’. 1916 was one of the most fruitful and happiest years of his life, with his output focusing particularly on strings: the Cello Sonata, the String Quartet and the Violin Concerto.
Delius met Albert Sammons in 1915, and from their first meeting, it was clear that their partnership was going to lead to something very special. Sammons, then a celebrated violinist active in the centre of English music, worked together with Delius in completing the solo violin part. Sammons’ contribution to this work is evident in his own copy of the solo part, in which he wrote down every note on to manuscript, supplementing with numerous options of fingerings, bowings and phrase markings. Delius must have been happy with Sammons’ suggestions, as when he saw it, he simply signed the front cover! The meticulous ideas written in these pages, most of which are not included in the published solo part, give various clues both in terms of the technical and musical aspects.
Although Delius studied the violin in his youth and for sure this was his most familiar instrument (he even performed the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto), it is quite clear that he did not intend to write a ‘violinistic’ concerto as one would expect in a conventional form. Written in one movement with three sections, this is a narrative which leads the way through an organic development of the opening phrase. From the lyrical chromatic line to the rhythmical motif stressing on the second beat, almost all subsequent motifs can be traced back to this beginning. The ‘scotch snap’ melody as heard in the middle section is a Delian fingerprint – this is passed between the solo part and the orchestra, and as if playing in chamber music, the counterpoint creates an intimate texture. In contrast, the last section sparks off with a virtuosic dance-like motif (which is still reminiscent of the chromatic line in the beginning of the piece), and as it oscillates between the recapitulation of the first phrase, the music naturally winds down. Also a characteristic feature in the endings of Delius’s other works for violin, such as Légende or Violin Sonata No.3, this gradual shift from reality to a dream-like atmosphere feels particularly unique to Delius’s sound world, and is simply magical.
Born: January 6, 1838, Cologne
Died: October 2, 1920, Berlin
The German composer Max Bruch was five years younger than Brahms, three years older than Dvořák, and his richly successful music in a late but “classical” Romantic style is clearly akin to the music of these more famous contemporaries. Despite a catalog of admirable works across all genres (opera, choral music, symphonies, concerti, and chamber music), Bruch is today remembered primarily for his gorgeous and immensely popular Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26 (1866) and perhaps the Kol Nidrei, Op. 47, for Cello and Orchestra (1880). During his lifetime, Bruch was known mostly as a composer of choral music and for his decades of service as musical director, conductor and composition teacher. He lived well beyond both Brahms and Dvořák through the end of WWI at which time his music was regarded as conservative if not “suddenly” old-fashioned with its 19th century aesthetic compared with the expressionist, atonal and Dadaist tendencies of the modernist 20’s. After his death, during the Nazi Regime, Bruch’s music was banned due to his questionable association with such topics as the Jewish Kol Nidrei. His music disappeared. Looking backward from the long view of the 20th century, it would seem that Bruch, a late master of a style he did not innovate, simply becomes parenthetical in a dense, condensed history.
While much of Bruch is worth rediscovery, his chamber music is particularly so. He wrote a sextet, a piano trio, two string quartets, three string quintets and a late string octet, all of it engaging, rich and skillfully formed: a secret trove of beautiful music in the grand style. But his most well-known chamber work is the eminently worthy collection of Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola and Piano, op. 83 of 1910. Bruch composed them for his twenty-five-year-old son, Max Felix, who was just beginning his career as a professional clarinetist at the time. It would seem that several aspects combine to grace this work with intimate significance: the musical inspiration of Bruch’s own son, the special character of the clarinet, the “halo” of historical trios from Brahms and Mozart, Bruch’s own advanced, fragile age, and, finally, the very twilight of a Romantic style that would soon be banished to a lost epic of the past.
Although they comprise a collection of individual, short “miniatures”, Bruch’s pieces are much more than brief character sketches for the salon: They are beautifully scored chamber trios with lyrical melodies, romantic harmonies and articulated forms full of passionate expression and elegant design. While Bruch inevitably evokes Brahms, one also hears ample reflections of Schumann, Schubert and Beethoven and a clear, ripe tradition of German Romanticism. Commentators often point out the predominance of minor keys yet many of the pieces eventually transform their initial melancholy into a kind of resolved, illuminated nobility. Along with a variety of mood and tempo, the music offers a fluid variety of scoring featuring each of the three instruments in the strong relief of intimately interactive chamber textures. A year later, Bruch would pursue these unique sonorities with another work for his son, the Concerto for Clarinet, Viola, and Orchestra in E minor, Op. 88 of 1911.
© Kai Christiansen
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Yevgenia Strenger, violin
Yevgenia Strenger has performed as a soloist and chamber musician in concert halls of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, and played in every major concert hall worldwide on New York Philharmonic orchestra tours. Before coming to USA she toured the former USSR as a member of Kalinin String Quartet.
Upon arrival in New York Ms. Strenger became a member of the New York City Opera becoming the Concertmaster in 2001. Her contribution to the Live From Lincoln Center performance of “Madama Butterfly” was honored by Emmy awards. She is also a member of New York City Ballet and has been a frequent player with the New York Philharmonic for many years.
Ms. Strenger made her debut with the Lviv Symphony Orchestra in her native Ukraine at the age of 13, performing as a soloist in concertos by Conius and Sibelius. Since her arrival in this country, she has performed and recorded with a wide range of artists, from classical to popular to avant-garde, in concerts on TV, radio and in motion pictures.
Sander Strenger, viola
Recognized as one of the rare breed of left-handed players in Ovation Magazine, Sander Strenger, moves comfortably between the violin and viola. Employing a lyric and graceful approach to the violin and a beautifully balanced sound to the viola, Mr. Strenger was praised for his "lively…elegant performance" (Boston Globe). His playing calls attention to those small details of phrasing, articulation and tone which separate a performance from a mere reading. Mr. Strenger has appeared as soloist with the Bronx Symphony, the West Side Symphony, Broadway Bach Ensemble, and the Missouri Symphony Society. Mr. Strenger was also a member of the Lydian and Estehazy Quartets, the Berkshire Chamber Players, Euterpe Ensemble, and the Music Project. In addition, he has been heard in recitals and chamber music concerts at the Lenox Arts Center, Winthrop University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Emelin Theater, Merkin Hall, Weil Recital Hall, the Bronx Museum, Brooklyn Museum, and the National Arts Club. Formerly an assistant professor of music at the University of Missouri, Columbia, he served as Assistant Concertmaster of American Ballet Theater and the Opera Orchestra of New York.
Among numerous works performed by Mr. Strenger are premieres of compositions by Alexander Dmitriev and Matthew Greenbaum, and music by Arnold Rosner, Willard Roosevelt, Otto Luening, and Alexander Tcherepnin. A native New Yorker, Mr. Strenger is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied violin with Ariana Bronne and Raphael Bronstein, and chamber music with Lilian Fuchs and Artur Balsam.
Dan Berlinghoff, piano
Buffalo-born pianist Dan Berlinghoff was a late-starter at 12, studying with Allen Giles at the University of Buffalo and Villa Maria Institute of Music. After making his debut at age 15 in Mozart's D minor Concerto, “handling an exacting concerto with skill and poise” (Buffalo Evening News). This “serious and persuasive musical personality” was a winner or finalist in several competitions from New York to Texas. Two years later, the Buffalo Courier Express praised his solo recital as “fluid and natural, dazzling and virtuosic. The spirit of his playing was charged with enthusiasm”.
Berlinghoff earned B.M. and M.M. degrees as a student of Beveridge Webster at the Juilliard School, studying chamber music with Lillian Fuchs and accompanying with Samuel Sanders. Postgraduate studies were with Artur Balsam at the Manhattan School of Music, where he was also a chamber music instructor.
Described as “one of those accompanists who almost seems to breathe with the musician for whom he is playing” (San Angelo Standard Times), he has partnered nearly every orchestral instrument and voice and appeared as soloist in Beethoven's C minor Concerto and Schumann's A minor Concerto in summer concerts with the Buffalo Philharmonia.
As co-founder, artistic director and pianist with The Music Project, a 10-member repertory ensemble of winds, strings and piano, he appeared in over 100 subscription concerts at Merkin Hall, Town Hall and Carnegie Recital Hall; in series at the Frick Collection, Caramoor Festival, and Maverick Concerts; in broadcasts on NPR and The Listening Room on WQXR; and on tours across the U.S. The group premiered or revived works by Beethoven, Mahler, Respighi, Hindemith, Persichetti and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and featured guests from Gerard Schwarz to Patricia Routledge— winning praise from The New Yorker as “New York’s bright, fresh alternative to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.” The New York Times called Berlinghoff “an elegant player”, in one instance noting “one can only admire the ease with which his big hands wrapped around the octaves and rippling arpeggios.” (He believes his hands to be of normal size.)
Theater credits include sci-fi rock musical, CORFAX—Don’t Ask, and Carmilla, A Vampire Tale at LaMama Experimental Theater Club (off-Broadway and European tour), national tours of Pippin and I Do I Do (Howard Keel, Carol Lawrence), NY Shakespeare Festival productions of Mother Courage (Gloria Foster, Morgan Freeman) and The Pirates of Penzance (Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt) in Central Park and 700 performances on Broadway as pianist (cast album and film) and conductor.
In 1994, Berlinghoff became co-founder and executive director of the Artur Balsam Foundation for Chamber Music, supporting scholarships, workshops, a chamber music curriculum, duo competition at Manhattan School, archives at the University of Maryland and the Library of Congress, and historic recordings released on Bridge Records.
He now lives on Cape Cod.